Patent infringement litigation commenced against The DIRECTV Group, Inc. in Los Angeles District Court on February 14, 2008. The patent holder, Phoenix Solutions, Inc., is accusing DIRECTV of infringing four of its patents (Patent Nos. 6,615,172, 7,139,714, 7,050,977, and 7,225,125). The patents relate to computer-based speech recognition technology and allow for “virtual customer service agent” responses to incoming phone calls from a live person.
The complaint alleges that DIRECTV’s customer support lines and website, “including movie and/or event ordering lines and installer activation lines, that employ a natural language interactive voice response (IVR) system that includes a virtual agent” infringes on the four patents. The complaint asserts that customers/installers can speak with DIRECTV’s ordering system in a conversational manner, which ability has saved DIRECTV $9.2 million over touch-tone answering devices. The complaint states that Plaintiff contacted DIRECTV almost a year ago in an attempt to settle the dispute, but DIRECTV did not provide the requested information. Plaintiff alleges that the patent infringement is willful and seeks treble damages and attorneys’ fees and costs under 35 U.S.C. §§ 284 and 285.